Your Excellency the Vice President;
Rt. Honourable Speaker of Parliament;
Your Lordship the Chief Justice;
Rt. Honourable Deputy Speaker of Parliament;
Rt. Honourable Prime Minister;
Rt. Honourable Deputy Prime Ministers;
The Religious Leaders;
Your Excellencies Ambassadors and High Commissioners;
Honourable Members of Parliament;
All the workers present;
Ladies and Gentlemen.
I take this opportunity to salute all the workers of Uganda on the occasion to mark International Labour Day. This day is commemorated not as a mere routine but as an occasion to reflect on the contribution of labour towards economic development.
Today we commemorate Labour Day at a moment in our history when workers are enjoying the economic dividends of the peace and stability which were brought about by the NRM Government.
Those of you who are old enough will recall that when the NRM seized the leadership of this country in 1986, the economy was in dire straits.
Many of the public and private enterprises were operating way below capacity or had shut down. Many workers had also been laid off or made redundant by factories. Consequently, most of the goods, including basic essential goods, were being imported from neighbouring countries like Kenya. Our labour force was, therefore, making very limited contribution to the economy through industrial production.
Today, the shelves of shops in the villages and supermarkets in Kampala and other major towns are full of locally made products. The revitalization of the industrial sector has greatly contributed to employment opportunities, tax revenue and improvement of the country’s balance of payment position. As a result, the manufacturing sector today employs 1.2 million workers compared 15,588 workers in 1986. In addition, because of consistent growth in industry and other sectors, Uganda has posted an annual average economic growth rate of about 6 percent for the last 15 years. Revenue collection has also grown from an insignificant Shs.5 billion in 1986 to Shs.11.23 trillion in 2015/16. This exponential growth in revenue, has enabled us to expand infrastructure, build schools as well as hospitals among other important government projects. The high annual rates of growth mentioned above, were achieved in spite of high production costs caused by infrastructure bottlenecks such as scarce and expensive electricity, poor roads and railways and the high interest rates charged by the profiteering commercial banks.
Now that we have, finally, ensured the supply of more electricity, 5,156 kms of tarmack roads have been constructed, an additional 3,539 kms are being constructed with others planned in the next 3 years, we have plans to build a modern railway system and we are working on the capitalization of Uganda Development Bank (UDB) so as to get low interest rates for manufacturing and agriculture, we are going to score much higher rates of growth.
With more electricity, better roads and the other efforts mentioned above, we have only been having the problem of corruption by public servants and some of the politicians. It is these that have been either blocking or delaying investors.
I want to repeat for all to hear that any politician or civil servant who involves himself or herself in corruption will have endangered himself or herself. We shall not only wait to catch you red-handed as has fortunately happened recently. Even by auditing your actions, we can know that you are corrupt. Why should you delay authorization of an investment when you know very well that millions of our children need jobs? Do we need any other evidence if the investor has the money and you delay him? Delaying a credible investor is, ipsofacto, corruption. We shall not need any other evidence.
Uganda is one of the richest countries in the world. Apart from our massive agricultural potential, which we are exploiting more and more, you will soon see the big industrial projects of agro-processing and industries based on our minerals wealth. Kilembe will be revived to produce copper for our cables industry, the making of transformers for electricity and, eventually, even the turbines. Soon the fertilizer, steel and glass industries will be built in the Tororo area. Cement factories will be built in Karamoja. This is not to talk of Cobalt in Kasese, tin and columbite in the Ankole-Kigyezi area, a new steel industry in the Kigyezi area, etc. We are vigorously hunting the criminals on the lakes to restore the fish stocks on our lakes. The UPDF has taken over the hunting of the criminals on the lakes. It is my hope that in about a year’s time, the fish stocks will have recovered so that the 21 fish factories that we had attracted, can be revived. More factories, means more workers. We should not continue to talk of the current 1.2 million workers who are working in the factories we have attracted. We need jobs for maybe 15 million workers. The Workers’ Movement, the NRM Youth Movement, the Students’ Movement, the National Youth Council, all the political leaders should be bakaambwe (to be very harsh) to anybody who delays any factory or any other investment because the future prosperity of Uganda depends on those factories.
“Building the Nation through Good Work Ethics” which is the theme for this year’s Labour Day celebrations is relevant to our efforts of consolidating the economic gains made so far and also using the same as a foundation for realising the Vision of transforming the Ugandan society from a peasant to a modern and prosperous country.
Work is a central tenet of the NRM vision of transforming Uganda into a modern and prosperous country. Accordingly, the NRM government has since 1986, left no stone unturned in creating the conditions necessary for unlocking the full potential of citizens.
Ladies and gentlemen, the total land area of Uganda is 241,550.7sq.kms, of which 41,027sq.kms are open water bodies. While the 200,523.2sq.kms are land, about 144,374 sq.kms or 72 percent of that land area is arable; but apparently, land under farming is 91,151.8 sq.kms. However, it is not uncommon to find a homestead living on arable land but surrounded by bush and not a garden of food or cash crops. Even the farmed land is not farmed optimally. Very little diligence is put in the effort. This unfortunate phenomenon confirms that apart from the occasional harsh weather conditions, the choice for easy life and aversion to work is also responsible for hunger and poverty. Owing to our good weather and other priorities, we had not, in the past, paid much attention to irrigation beyond the rehabilitation of Doho Irrigation Scheme, Olweny, Mobuku and Agoro.
Since the bad weather of last year, however, we have began to focus on irrigation. We have already distributed solar powered water pumps in the following areas: Kandago (Kabale), Nyadri (Maracha), Inomo (Apac), Kololo (Adjumani), Kabira (Rakai) and Kibenyeya (Hoima). These limited efforts show that drought is a curable problem.
There is also laziness among public officers which greatly undermines service delivery. Some public officers report late for duty and when they report they spend most of the office time chatting on social media platforms like Facebook and whatsApp. The other challenge that we must address in order to improve productivity of our labour is the problem of alcoholism and gambling. Although the alcohol and gambling companies contribute substantial amount of taxes to the national treasury, I note that the uncontrolled consumption of alcohol and gambling has negative effects on attitude to work and productivity; yet the only way of getting out of poverty is through work.
I, therefore, would like to urge all leaders to mobilize communities to appreciate the importance of hard work and the dangers of reckless consumption of alcohol and gambling. The Permanent Secretaries should also put in place productivity enhancing and monitoring measures in their ministries in order to stop the culture of laziness in the Public Service. We are considering the regulation of drinking and gambling hours. Drinking and gambling at any hour of the day is excessive liberalism.
We are aware that good nutrition, health, education and innovation are crucial for enhanced labour productivity and economic progress. The government will continue with programmes aimed at strengthening agriculture, health service delivery, skills development and innovative research and development.
Regarding agriculture, we are going to step up measures of increasing production for food and cash crops by assisting farmers to access key farm inputs, livestock, seeds, breeding and planting materials. Above, I talked of gravity irrigation around Mount Elgon and the Rwenzori. I also talked of solar powered pumps. You can, however, also use simple irrigation techniques.
The advice I am giving here is the experience of a practical farmer. For long, I had been listening to endless complaints of our farmers about loss of crops to drought but with no solution in sight from our people in the departments of agriculture and water. Therefore, I decided, in October 2016, to go back to the roots of the NRM at a place called Kawumu in Mawale parish of Makulubita Sub-county in Luweero District. At Kawumu, I have been able to demonstrate that water drawn manually from a swamp or pond can, with the use of waste plastic bottles, be used for drip irrigation. I had actually learnt this technique from one of our farmers in Ngai sub-county, Oyam district known as Beatrice Okello. Recently, I repeated the same efforts on the President’s farm at Kityerera in Mayuge district. According to scientist Mafabi of the Ministry of Water, before some citizens invaded the wetlands (enfuunjo, ebisharara, ebibari, entobazi, Acholi-nota, Lugbara-Aya, Teso-isama), the night and morning mist (omutoondo, oruho, olufu, Acholi-lupuru, Lugbara-apurusa, Teso-ekuna) would do the drip irrigation for us, but do it naturally.
An unhealthy labour force cannot support effective national production. The government will continue with programmes aimed at improving the health of our people. These include:
(a) Continued construction of new hospitals and health centres;
(b) Increasing drug supplies in health facilities including ARVs;
(c) Consolidating the immunisation efforts;
(d) Increasing HIV/AIDS awareness especially among young people;
(e) Stepping up efforts to eradicate malaria;
(f) Intensifying the fight against non-communicable diseases such as cancer and diabetes.
SKILLS DEVELOPMENT AND INNOVATION
Equipping our young people with cutting-edge skills and competencies is a sine qua non for employability, sustained economic growth and effective competition in the global market.
Ladies and gentlemen, a total of up to 150,000 jobs will be created under the Albertine Development Project. It is estimated that 15,000 of these will be direct jobs, 35,000 indirect jobs and about 100,000 induced jobs. The induced jobs are those jobs created as a result of wealth created through the redistribution of oil revenue in the economy. Many of these jobs will require specialised skills.
We are going to step up efforts of addressing the skills gaps and mismatches in the labour market. To this end, we have already addressed the problem of access by building schools and other institutions. Our focus now will be on improving the quality of learning outcomes.
To address the skills mismatch, we are going to emphasise more work based learning models like apprenticeship. The Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development has already developed a National Apprenticeship Framework. You the workers, our grand children the youth and their parents, all of you need to be reminded of the NRM advice. The sectors of the economy are four: commercial agriculture, industries, services and ICT. By local and foreign actors investing in these four, is the major way of creating more jobs for the youth, expanding the tax base and producing more goods and services. Therefore, politically, we should not tolerate anybody who delays or undermines, in any way, the pace of investments.
Before I conclude on the issues of labour, I would like to inform you that Uganda has been elected to the governing council of International Labour Organisation (ILO). We now have a functioning Industrial Court and we are also paid up members of International Labour Organisation (ILO). I am informed that the Minimum Wage Board has concluded its report and submitted it to Cabinet. Cabinet will decide on what type of minimum wage we should take.
The recent wave of crime in Kampala and in some villages around Masaka should not scare you. The NRM defeated bigger enemies such as Kony, ADF in the Rwenzori region, the rebels in Teso and the Karimojong cattle rustlers from whom we took 40,000 rifles. Anybody to imagine that urban based criminals using the easy means of movement and communication created by the NRM (boda-bodas, matatus, mobile phones, etc) and hiding in the large number of people in the towns, will disturb our peace sustainably, is to fool oneself. Using improved technical means (e.g. cameras in towns) and, if necessary, the mobilization of our massive reserves, we shall destroy anybody involved either directly or indirectly.
I have already ordered the security forces how, if necessary, this can be done cost-effectively. Therefore, the only safe exit for those who have already stained their hands with the blood of Ugandans or committed the despicable crime of rape, is to surrender and answer for your crimes in the courts of law. Any further self-deception on your part that you can escape justice will end in your losing your life. That was the mistake of the law breakers in Kasese and Bundibugyo recently, the Karimojong cattle rustlers and the Kony and ADF terrorists in the past. I appeal to the courts to stop giving bails to these criminals. That giving of bail is part of the problem.
On the issue of the shortage of food in some areas that hit us last season, my advice is to use relief very carefully for two reasons. The first reason is that relief can kuremaza (disorient) our people away from production to, instead, get in the habit of waiting for relief. Secondly, Ugandans should know that when we are eating relief food, we should know that we are chewing a road, a school or a health centre. Therefore, relief should only be for the really unavoidable situations. It should not be used by politicians for cheap popularity or frivolously (let us take the government food since it is available) or even for corruption by government officials (get the food for selling claiming that it is for relief).
Finally, I would like to say that work is the only way to get people out of poverty. I, therefore, urge all Ugandans to develop a positive attitude to work. The NRM government will continue to provide an enabling environment for establishing businesses and creation of employment.
Once again, I wish to salute all the workers of Uganda.
I thank you.